Remembering 9/11: We are all together. Still.

This post was originally published September 11, 2010.

I finished my morning run on the dike, and walked to the car under deep blue skies.  The air carried the first smells of fallen leaves.  I unlocked the door, got in and took a drink of water before starting the car.  The radio greeted me with a special announcement rather than the music of Mozart or Beethoven.  This was the before moment.  Then there was after.

A plane had hit the World Trade Center.  No.  Two planes had hit the World Trade Center.

My cellphone rang and I answered, relieved to ramble with my brother about the certainty that these were terrorist attacks.  Who? What? Why?  And as we spoke, he cried, “Oh, my god! Something just hit T.C. Williams High School! Oh, my god! I will have to call you right back!”  And the phone went dead.

I drove home, in stunned silence, the radio serving as my companion through the next fifteen minutes.  National Public Radio hosts reported the Pentagon strike, and I thought of my brothers, the one coping with hearing the Pentagon’s explosion on his way to work, the other already in the Ronald Reagan Building near the National Mall.  What now?  Were they safe?  Was there more to come?

Oh, my god!  Perry! His office was just blocks from the World Trade Center! I checked in with my sister-in-law…he was so far safe.

I got home to speak with my house painters, who found it hard to concentrate as they applied one more coat to my trim. Their radio announced the Shanksville crash and they finally just climbed off their ladders.  We took turns sharing what we knew, breaking to call more family as we thought of one more person that might be stuck in DC or New York or Pittsburgh.   And then…

Silence in the skies.

It was still that perfect blue sky, with wispy clouds, sweetly fragrant with first fall smells. But it was so still.

My son called home to report that he had forgotten his trumpet and the band instructor would just KILL him if I didn’t bring it down real, real soon.  That was my moment of Can Do: we must be resolute, take this in stride, aid those who are hurt, show our children just how we Americans handle disaster.  I picked up that trumpet, got into that car, and headed into town, through the mountain pass along Toby’s Creek.  The valley opened up with those beautiful Poconos on the other side, the highway straightened out, cars picked up speed.  Just as I hit that 55mph there was a highway construction sign, the kind that can be programed for all sorts of alert messages.  Today instead of providing a heads up about construction it flashed:  All Roads to NYC CLOSED.

Up to that moment some part of my brain still said that this morning was a dream. That we had all just misheard the news.  But that pixelated message struck me with a ferocity.  We have been attacked.  We must learn to live and create now in fear’s midst.

I didn’t see the towers fall, I was too busy being resolute and determined to act with courage and be a rock for my children.  The trumpet was delivered and my child stayed in school all day.  Just like any other day.  My daughter stayed in school, with her classmates slowly being pulled out by anxious parents.  While they went through the motions of normality I found the nearest Red Cross Bloodmobile and joined dozens of Back Mountain residents giving blood for New Yorkers, who would never need it.

I continued the normal routine, which included cello lessons, and the children and I talked a bit along the way about what had happened and what we were feeling.  Keep going, I thought, just keep going.  Cellos got played and packed up–clack, clack, clack, clack went the latches of their cases.  We piled into our van and headed into the dusk.  The car seemed to drive itself to our church; I certainly had not intended to go.  But I had a sudden, overpowering need to be in community.  No one noticed or cared that we entered the crowded service very late.  We were all together, that is all that mattered.

The sun had come up and crossed a brilliant blue sky, and now it set in the same place as before.  East was still east and west was still west. But our moral compass as America had just been put to a huge test.  How would it survive?  How would we survive?

We were together.  We are together.  That is all that matters.  Still.

Sing A Song for Christmas!

Copyright 1906, P Sander N.Y.

A Merry Christmas!  I am so pleased to find among my collection a fine example of a glittered embossed postcard by P. Sander Company.  Oh, how I wish I knew the ins and outs of scanning to capture three dimensions, for the publishers of this era worked hard to enhance their cards, simply and cheaply, with embossing–raised areas of the painting that create depth! In this 1906 card the red-breasted songsters are heavily embossed atop a snow-covered fence that is less heavily embossed, quickly drawing your eye to the artist’s main subject.  The holly and snow are not only embossed but glittered, giving the impression that the sun may be peaking out between snow bearing clouds.  In the silver embossed background, a riverside town sits in the muffled, snowy silence.  Such a beautiful card! A hand delivered Merry Christmas to four year old Donald Minor from May M.

A Merry (European) Christmas!

E. B. C. Publisher, Printed in Saxony

Hello, Donald, Come on over and we will sled ride. What is Santa Claus going to bring you. ~Carl

This toy-bearing gent is more St. Nicholas than Santa Claus.   Influenced by the artist’s Saxon* roots, this illustration depicts a St. Nick clad in heavy black boots and a long, hooded red robe tromping through the snow, his waist-length beard catching the wind.  A mittened left hand clasps the fir tree which is big enough that it must stand on the floor in some fortunate home!  Under its branches St. Nick will leave dolls and drums pulled from his basket and sack.

Carl Corbly Minor extended his sledding invitation to his five year old cousin, Donald Minor, in December of 1907.  The 28 year old son of Alfred (1859-1886) and Anna Minor lived down the road from Robert, May, Helen and Donald, running his family’s farm with his mother and younger brother, Frank M.  Imagine these rolling hills of southwestern Pennsylvania covered with a good snowfall. I am certain Donald had a fast trip down!

The rolling hills of the Minor Home Farm, Ceylon Road, R.D. 1, Carmichaels, PA

*Saxony is a southeastern state of current day Germany and is home to Dresden, Leipzig and Seiffen. It is also the home of many Christmas customs, like the Christmas tree.

My Fair Lady Wishes You A Happy Christmas!

Sent with no message, December 22, 1909

This fair lady sends greetings for a Happy Christmas. Seven year old Donald C. Minor received this card at Christmastime 1909, and though the painting is not signed, I believe it to be another Ellen H. Clapsaddle card.  Why?

  1. An embossed frame of gold holds the portrait of a sweet young lady, hair swept stylishly up and under a hat bedecked with fresh roses.  A ruffled collar frames a face full of youthful innocence.  Such a joyful illustration of Victorian youth is characteristic of Ellen H. Clapsaddle’s work.
  2. Turning the card over, I discovered this:
  3. The International Art Publishing Company was established in 1895, merging companies formerly run by Messrs. Wolf and Samuel Garre.  Their most prolific artist was Ellen H. Clapsaddle, as I discovered while researching Skating to Greet YOU!, a card also printed in 1909.

Until a collector convinces me otherwise, I stand on my judgement: My Fair Lady is a Clapsaddle original.  Happy Christmas!

A Joyous Christmastide – Christmas in Postcards

Printed in Germany

Dear Cousin

Dear Cousin, We arrived home safe and it has been winter ever since.  Old Santa is coming to our church Friday eve. and we are anxious to see him. Come out and see us and we will take a sleighride. ~Ivan Vannroy

A happy Christmas “meow” to you! The lightly embossed kittens send young Donald Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania wishes for a joyous Christmastide.  The publisher’s mark is right below the right kitty and reads “Painting only. Copyrighted by S. Garre, New York 1909.”  Small print on the back indicates that the Series #1064 postcard was printed in Germany.

The note’s salutation led me on a goose-chase to find the connection between Donald and Ivan.  The postmark is stamped Tama, Iowa, December 22, 11 am, 1909.  While some Pennsylvania Minors migrated west to Ohio, Illinois and Iowa in the mid-1800s, I haven’t seen the name Vannroy in any family documents.  

Finally, exasperated, I took the shortcut offered at the Thomas Minor (The Immigrant) Society web page, searching the site by surname.  Within the descendant surname list I spotted the family name: VANNOY.  When I plugged this spelling into Ancestry’s search engine I confirmed the Thomas Minor Society’s information.

The Story Unfolds

Francis Marion Minor had three children older than Donald’s father, Robert.  John P. was the eldest, then Olfred (whose son Carl also wrote to Donald), then there was Sarah Priscilla.  Sarah married Mark Herrington and had Beatrice Jane.  Beatrice Jane married John Vannoy and had little Ivan in 1906.  They are cited as living in Tama, Iowa in the 1910 census.

Behind this pair of kitten’s lies a family story wherein Sarah’s daughter Beatrice marries and moves west to Iowa.  In the fall of 1909 Bedie traveled home with her family, including young Ivan, returning to Iowa before winter set in. The Christmas kittens were then sent in three-year-old Ivan’s name to six-year-old Donald, the cousin with whom he had played during his Pennsylvania visit.

A Joyous Christmastide to you and yours!

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